Via Volokh Conspiracy, a disturbing criminal case out of Montana, where Flathead County resident David Lenio, 28, is being prosecuted for making disparaging remarks about Jews on Twitter and denying that the Holocaust happened.
Say what? While this sort of prosecution is common in parts of Europe, Americans enjoy the protection of the First Amendment, which contains no exception for what’s colloquially known as “hate speech.” The only permitted exceptions to free speech protections—as the Supreme Court recently re-articulated—are for obscenity, defamation, fraud, incitement, and “speech integral to criminal conduct.”
As Eugene Volokh explains, defamation law is generally “limited to false factual assertions. It requires a showing that the speaker knows the statement is false, and isn’t just mistaken (reasonably or not). And it requires a statement about a particular person.”
But under Montana’s ridiculously broad defamation statute, “defamatory matter is anything that exposes a person or a group, class, or association to hatred, contempt, ridicule, degradation, or disgrace in society or injury to the person’s or its business or occupation.” And anyone who “communicates any defamatory matter to a third person without the consent of the person defamed commits the offense of criminal defamation.”